We got word today that the demo for Left Behind: Eternal Forces was up, and we tried it in multiplayer and single-player. For those in the dark on this one, it's an RTS based on the popular "Left Behind" series of books and movies depicting life on Earth after the events prophesied in The Bible's Book of Revelations.
A quick word about Revelations, first. Personally, I think it's a good read. It's pretty much the Jerry Bruckheimer part of The Bible. All of the worst, most horrible things you can imagine happening are described in that book in sickening detail. I read it once before going to bed. Worst nightmares of my life. No joke.
The key plot point in The Book, the books and the game is "The Rapture," the mass departure of all of God's faithful children, which is prophesied in Revelations to take place immediately prior to The Apocalypse (and is rendered in the opening cutscene of the game), and the coming of the Antichrist. So anyone left behind after that is pretty much screwed.
The "Left Behind" series deals with these people, and offers a glimpse of hope, suggesting that those who are left behind can still find salvation and make their way to Heaven. That's where the game comes in.
Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a typical RTS in many respects, but the differences are striking. Whereas in a typical RTS, the player will win or lose based on how many armies he can develop using resources dotted around the map, in Left Behind you win by "converting" people to your side - be that the side of good (The Tribulation Force) or the side of evil (The Global Community Peacemakers), and among your weapons and abilities are such things as prayer and blasphemy.
All religious debate aside, the team at Left Behind Games is obviously committed to the project, and when I met them at E3 seemed genuinely concerned that gamers take the game seriously as a game, apart from it's obvious Christian message. In that respect, I think they've failed. The game is not much to look at graphically, and the controls and interface are throwbacks to the genre's less-sophisticated past. One of our editors, a frequent RTS player, actually had trouble figuring out how to convert people, which is the whole point of the game.
The voice acting and scripting in the single-player campaign is also frightfully horrible, and is betrayed, I think, by the unavoidable bias. I was warned by an NPC at one point, for example, to avoid "the evil musicians. If you get too close, they may play their screaming guitars to influence you to their side." And sure enough this happened several times, at which point I died and had to start over - death by Rock and Roll.
Another highlight was when an NPC character casually mentioned that "Things haven't been the same around here since The Rapture." You don't say.
I played through one of the four missions included with the demo, but didn't find the experience compelling enough to brave the "screaming guitars" in the other three.
The multiplayer is where it's at with this game, though. There's truly something to be said for being able to wage a war of actual biblical proportions over the office LAN. Hearing the horror in Shannon's voice as he cried "Russ, are you smiting my dudes or is God?" was matched only by the actual feeling of dread I experienced when his legion of evil minions finally discovered my Tribulation Force and smacked them down with all of their evil might.
The music was pretty good, too.